Jennifer Kupcho’s rise to prominence may have happened quickly but her career has already delivered a historical milestone as the first woman to have won at Augusta National.
The 25-year-old, Colorado-born triple-LPGA Tour winner possesses a fighting spirit that has made her one of the most talked about players in the game, but it’s her faith in her own ability that has taken her into the world’s top ten, as she reveals to RSNG.com in this interview…
RSNG Has your ascent up the rankings surprised you in any way?
JENNIFER KUPCHO, LGPA Winner “I think I have to remind myself to draw the line between surprise and expectation when I answer this!
“Am I surprised? Yes, I think I probably am; though I’ve always had faith in my own ability and you very quickly learn to trust the voice inside, and accept you are at the level you are at, so it now all seems pretty straightforward for me.”
RSNG You mean you find it easy?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “No, more straightforward in the sense that I know this is my life now. As you say, it wasn’t so long ago that I was an amateur, and before that doing my studies at Wake Forest University.
“For a long time my dream job was to do something in business, and it was only towards the end of my studies that I realized, ‘hey, there could actually be a career here in golf.’ Turning professional was the next step towards seeing if this thing really could work, and here I am now.”
RSNG And yet you decided to follow through on your education rather than quit early?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “I had done too much work to want to throw away my studies and leap into golf. My logic was that golf would always be there for me and I didn’t have too long left of my college career.
“In truth, the tournaments I was playing towards the end of college offered me a nice distraction from studies, and vice versa. So, the package meant I could feel like my studies and my sporting career were moving forward, but at any time I was able to switch between the two.”
I don’t think too much about what is destined – in my mind if you put the hard work in then you get out what you deserve
RSNG You have a very certain and secure persona that must serve you well on the course?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “I think sometimes it’s easy to let the pressure of an environment get the better of you.
“I’ve always been of the mindset that you look not at the challenges, but at the things around you that offer security. So that’s everything from ensuring my clubs are clean and ready, wearing something I like, knowing I’ve had a good breakfast or plenty of sleep – those sorts of things.
“The more parameters you can draw strength from, the fewer doubts will creep in. That’s the way I see it.”
RSNG As the first woman to have won at Augusta National, do you feel as if you were destined to be successful?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “I don’t think too much about what is destined. In my mind if you put the hard work in you get out what you deserve.”
**RSNG What do you see as the secret to your success?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “In recent years it’s been really getting back to a few basics. A lot of golfers will remark on how much difficulty the pro circuit has, obviously; and that all the ease you may have felt gliding through amateur tournaments just evaporates away because every day, every hole, is a challenge.
“One of the best pieces of advice I had when turning pro was to leave all the clever flicks and daring shots for the short game, focusing mostly on hitting fairways.
“I knew if I could really ensure I was hitting as many as it was possible for me to, I can let my technical talent do some of the other things that separate good players from great players.”
**RSNG And yet people have remarked on how good your putting has become?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “In the past year it has gotten a lot better, I agree. I think you will only give yourself a chance of putting for a birdie or eagle if, first, your long game is right; so one must rely on the other.”
Mentally I feel very strong now – that is something I have worked on with my swing coach for a while
RSNG How do you deal with inconsistency – the scourge for many a golfer?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “Well I actually had a bit of an inconsistent spell in 2021 and yet I came back in the year after that to achieve more than I dreamed of. I think the reality is you need to take each tournament, and each spell of form in isolation.
“I will always scrutinize how I play and I’m not afraid to put in the extra effort if it builds in me confidence and belief that I can out there on the course and beat anyone.
“So I did work really hard to get back that habit of consistently hitting fairways, and personally I think I got my reward back in April at the Chevron Championship. That was a great occasion when I felt, perhaps for the first time in a while, that the extra effort I had put in was really going to pay back.
“Obviously I have won a couple of other tournaments since, as well.”
RSNG You seem strong and settled in your life – like you know your path?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “I am not in a rush but I do know what I want and, thanks to good people around – such as my husband, haha – I am given the belief and the encouragement to succeed.
“Mentally I feel very strong now – that is something I have worked on with my swing coach for a while. I find it much easier to talk about technique and psychological elements with the same coach, because really they knit in together on every shot.
“I don’t want to miss a simple putt and talk about technique, then turn to a different coach to discuss how I should mentally get back into a positive frame of mind.
“I like to keep my processes consistent and my team close to me. It’s much easier that way.”
**RSNG Do you sense, however, that people like you because you’re not afraid to show your emotions?
JENNIFER KUPCHO “Showing emotion in those few moments after a shot, good or bad, is fine. I think the real task is to then block that out and move on, and that’s what I’ve become much better at doing.
“If none of us out on a golf course showed emotion I think it would be a pretty sterile place!”
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Photos: Shutterstock/ REX